Mental Health

Educate yourself about mental health and mental illness.

What is Mental Illness?

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines a mental illness as a health issue that is associated with changes in thoughts, emotions, behaviour and relationships with others.
Common Mental Illnesses
  • Sub-clinical depression or dysthymia
  • Anxiety disorders (generalized anxiety, panic disorder, phobias, social anxiety, OCD, PTSD
Severe mental illnesses
  • Schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorders
  • Paranoid and other psychotic disorders
  • Bipolar disorder (hypomanic, manic, depressive and mixed)
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Suicidal behaviour

The Banyan works primarily with individuals who suffer from severe mental illness. Severe mental illnesses can be overcome, in some instances individuals will spend the rest of their life on medication and need personal care and support.

Other individuals go on to lead independent lives as part of families and communities - a testament to individual strength and resilience.

Stress and Vulnerability

Vulnerability refers to an individual's susceptibility to mental illness and this is determined by a person’s genetics and early life experiences.

Psychosocial stress is associated with negative life events such as loss of a loved one, getting fried from a job, experiencing trauma relationship conflicts etc. Alcohol and drug use can also interact negatively with a person’s biological vulnerability.

A combination of biological vulnerability and stressors can lead to mental illnesses such as psychosis, depression, bipolar disorder etc. as they are the body and brain’s way of coping with stressors.

stress model

Treatment models for mental illness usually focus on a combination of addressing both biological and social factors. Examples are:

  • Taking medication
  • Avoiding alcohol and drug use
  • Developing effective coping skills for managing stress
  • Participating in meaningful activities
  • Building socially supportive relationships

If you are interested in finding out more about a specific disorder in more detail please refer to the National Alliance on Mental Illness or the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders

Mental Illness in India

Mental illness contribute to 31% of the global disease burden

but only receive 1% or less funding from national health budgets worldwide.

In India, there is a 90% treatment gap for those living with mental illness.

10-12% of persons living with mental illness experience long term care needs and these individuals are languishing in mental hospitals, beggar homes and therefore experience poor quality of living, poor mental health outcomes, significant human rights violations

In India, most funding towards mental health is utilised for institutional care that focuses on addressing solely biological vulnerabilities rather than social stressors (e.g. poverty, employment status, abuse, homelessness)

The recent National Mental Health Policy called for a convergence between health and social care systems to address vulnerable and marginalised groups who suffer from mental illnesses.

The Banyan aims to address both the biological and social factors that contribute to the emergence of mental illness through our treatment and prevention programmes.

Poverty-Mental Illness-Homelessness

We aim to address the factors that create the circumstances that lead individuals suffering from mental illness to fall into homelessness.

Research has shown a close link between poverty and mental illness: Common mental disorders are twice as frequent among poor communities

  • Those experiencing debt and hunger, poverty, overcrowded housing are more likely to suffer from common mental disorders
  • The highest prevalence of mental disorders are among those with lowest levels of education and the unemployed
  • Those from the lowest socio-economic background have a risk 8 times higher than those of higher SES for schizophrenia

Evidence also shows that this relationship is cyclical:

Poverty homelessness cycle

In regard to homelessness, mental illness affects an individual’s ability to carry out essential aspects of daily life (self care, household management, employment) in addition to preventing individuals from maintaining stable relationships (caregivers, friends, family).

These factors combined with the stress of living with a mental illness, those suffering from mental illness are much more likely to fall into homelessness than the general population.

Approximately 70% of India’s population lives on less than USD 2 / a day

As a consequence, a large group of individuals in our population are vulnerable to falling into this vicious cycle.

Mental Health & Daily Life

Even if you aren’t suffering from a severe mental illness, the daily stressors of the modern age can affect anyone negatively.

It is normal to experience highs and lows, and important to take your mental feelings as seriously as you do your physical.

There are many ways in which you can keep yourself healthy mentally, we have listed a few ways below:

  • Be kind towards yourself and others
  • Take time for rest
  • Exercise at least a few times a week
  • Participate in activities that you enjoy
  • Surround yourself with a positive support network
  • Practice gratitude
  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Sleep!
  • Educate yourself on mental health

 If you, or someone you know is experiencing serious symptoms of mental illness including hallucinations, delusions, consistent depressive mood, suicidal thoughts etc. please get help.

Stigma & Discrimination

Stigma and discrimination can seriously affect the health, welfare and quality of life of people with mental health problems.

The ignorance, fear, misunderstanding and prejudice that surround mental illness deepen the severity of the illness as individuals withdraw further from the world around them.

All of our clients have at some point in their life experienced the negative consequences of stigma and discrimination.

What can you do reduce stigma and discrimination

Make the time to understand more about mental illness, speak to friends and family about what you’ve learned. This way you are actively contributing to reducing stigma and increasing awareness about mental illness

If you find out that someone close to you has a mental illness, do not run away from them, try to be empathetic towards their experiences and try not to treat them any differently than you would before. They need your support more than ever.

Those with mental illness have as much motivation and skill as anyone else, don’t choose to break a relationship or a job just because you find out someone has a mental illness.

General Mental Health Information

National Helplines

Hospitals in & around Chennai

Institute of Mental Health, Kilpauk

Serene Life Hospital, Vanagaram

NGOs & Helplines in Chennai and Tamil Nadu

The Banyan Emergency Care and Recovery Centre, Chennai Services for homeless persons with mental health issues +91-44-26530504; +91-44-26530599
The Banyan Health Centre, Kovalam Services for homeless persons with mental health issues +91-44-27472184
Schizophrenia Research Foundation (SCARF), Chennai Services for individuals suffering from schizophrenia +91-44-2615-1073
Sri Arunodayam, Chennai Services for orphaned mentally challenged children +91-44-26511450 +91-44-26511803
Anbagam, Vichur Services for homeless mentally ill men +91-44-29013306 +91-9444009988
M.S. Chellamuthu Trust & Research Foundation, Madurai Promote mental health care through holistic mental health services +91-45-22586448 +91-9629911348
SNEHA 24/7 Suicide Helpline, Chennai Suicide helpline for those based in Tamil Nadu +91-44-24640050; +91-44-24640060
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